From scarcity of knowledge towards a state of not-knowing

The old view of knowledge defines it as something that people can own and contain. According to this view, increasing the value of knowledge requires it to be protected and made scarce. This had lead to a static view of expertise that diminishes interaction and cooperation within and outside the organization. In addition, the need to control knowledge has lead to impractical systems for customer-orientation. The view of containable knowledge is in direct opposition to how value can be created in information intensive fields of business. The new view of knowledge highlights openness and continuous development of information in interaction as the source of value and profit.

The broadness of interaction in the creation of information products increases the potential of its value. Successful value creation in information intensive work cannot involve only the people within an organization. As the value of information is defined in learning and interaction, openness in development of information will lead to more interchange and cooperation, leading to more possibilities of learning and interaction and through this, more value. In many organizations, product development is however protected and secret with the fear that the new knowledge being created could be stolen. How then to take the first steps towards more open interaction in development of knowledge?

In striving for value creation through uniqueness, businesses should communicate respect, aiming for mutuality and equality within their ecosystems. If a partnership is valued, it will more likely produce more value. If the people within organization providing services experience that their service is important, they will perceive more meaning in this work, resulting in a better outcome. Calling service-providing companies “vendors” can point out that they are replaceable, subordinate and dependent. In the search for new ideas, connections outside the organization can be a vital source of unlikely discovery.

Respect and trust towards customers can be expressed in how an organization includes them in value creation. Through approaching customer needs through segment-derived decision-making, the company is saying “you do not know what you want, we do”.  By listening and including the customer directly into decision-making, a more fruitful message can be conveyed. If you want to know, just ask. The fear about asking is related to the old view of knowledge  – if you reveal that you do not know, that you do not contain this information, you will be deemed incompetent. However, not-knowing is the very first, most crucial step in learning, which in turn is the very first step in creating more value through information. When the information product is created in a learning interaction with the customer, it will become more valuable and more unique for the customer.

If creating value is viewed as an interactive and creative effort that includes customers and other  organizations, success will be found in the ability to be open and create rewarding interaction for all involved. On the road towards this change, the first step to take is to have a look at what your view of knowledge is and how your communication is defined.


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Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation

The art of interaction, the design of digital and the science of social complexity

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